Her smile was radiant as she made her way to the podium, and he was happy to see how happy she was. As much as his heart warmed to see it, there was something in her smile that broke it in two. Why did she look concerned?
He had to make things right, considering he knew full well that his actions had been wrong. He had his crown in his hand as he walked down the stairs. No one was expecting him to do what he did next.
An Extraordinary Life
Thad Hemsworth was a senior like any other living in Los Angeles, California. He played on the school's football team as the best wide receiver, played in the school band, and had decent grades.
Everyone who knew Thad thought he had an extraordinary life and that he had everything he could ever dream of. Before he met Kerry, he constantly felt that he was missing something.
It was sophomore year when Kerry joined Thad's class as a new transfer. She was diagnosed with cerebral palsy and could not speak on her own. But that didn't take away from her heartwarming smile.
They were in the school lab when the teacher instructed the students to pair up before the lesson. As expected, everyone sought out their friends, and Kerry, the new girl, was left alone. Thad knew he had to do something about it, and that's when he learned about her condition.
She Spoke To Him
The class began when Thad took a seat at Kerry's table when he spotted her text-to-speech device. He had no idea what the device was and wondered what it was for.
The teacher spoke in front of the class, telling the students what to do when Kerry picked up the device. Thad thought it was a genius gadget when she used it to talk to him, and he instantly wanted to be her friend.
Becoming Best Friends
Thad and Kerry had become best friends by the time they were both in their senior year. Most of their time was spent together during school and together at home. Thad felt that Kerry made him see things differently.
As their friendship continued into their senior year, Thad discovered something about Kerry that would soon risk their friendship.
Risking The Friendship
Their friendship had grown strong throughout the years, but he found out Kerry had another friend. It was not just another acquaintance, but another best friend who was close to her heart, like she was close to his.
He didn't like thinking about it and didn't want to risk the friendship they had. They had something beautiful that he wanted to hold onto. But it wasn't long before an event came that would change everything.
He wasn't sure how to feel about Kerry being closer to another friend than she was with him. He knew he couldn't expect Kerry not to have any other friends, but he dreaded thinking about sharing her with someone else.
He eventually learned more about her other friend and realized what it meant for them that she was friends with him.
Thad eventually learned that Kerry's other friend was one of her old schoolmates, and they had known each other since they were five. When he found out, Thad felt a tightness in his chest.
When Kerry invited him to spend the day with her and Ali, Thad said yes. They all went to the movies, and Thad realized he would never be with Kerry the way he wanted.
Feeling Left Out
Ali had cerebral palsy like Kerry, but he was able to talk. He could make even Thad laugh with his jokes, and he always seemed to be smiling. He was fun to be around, and Thad noticed that Kerry laughed more with Ali than she did with him.
Thad felt lost whenever they told inside jokes, and as they made witty comebacks, he felt out of place, as if he were standing on the sidelines.
What He Saw In Her
Thad was grateful that he had found a friend in Kerry. She was someone he could share everything with, and he trusted her when he confided in her.
As the day progressed, he realized she was the same as Ali, and it hurt to realize that. He had been watching them interact the entire time, and there was no denying it.
Seeing Her Under A New Light
Thad had never considered a romantic branch within his and Kerry’s best friend situation. He had never viewed her in that manner.
But seeing her have a great time with Ali birthed a fit of rancid jealousy he didn’t know he was capable of. He skulked alone in a corner, unsure of what was happening.
Don’t Let Her See It
Thad didn’t know what to make of his feelings. His confusion quickly turned into panic when Kerry walked to him, asking why he was alone and quiet in a dark corner.
Seeing her come to him this way warmed Thad’s heart, but he stamped down the feeling. He needed to figure out what was happening to him.
Leaving Without Telling Her The Truth
“I need to go,” he said softly, telling Kerry he wasn’t feeling okay. Worried, Kerry asked if she and Ali could walk him home, but Thad turned down the offer.
“Stay,” he said with a forced smile. “Have fun, catch up. I’ll take a cab home and maybe some painkillers before hitting the sack.” Kerry was left stumped.
He Walks Away
The moment Thad walked away, he knew he’d made the biggest mistake of his life. He didn’t stop to look back or run and tell Kerry what was troubling his mind.
He quickly took his steps home, praying whatever was happening to him was just a fluke. There was no way he was romantically interested in his best friend of two years.
Suppress It Before It Eats You Up
As many would do in his situation, Thad suppressed any emotion that tried to steer him toward talking to Kerry - A mistake. He edged out all thoughts centering around her, occupying his mind with video games and music until he fell asleep.
Hoping things would be back to normal when he woke up, Thad closed his eyes, getting lost in the endless sweet waters of slumber. But even in his sleep, his heart would taunt him.
In His Dreams
Kerry came to Thad in his dreams. She was as beautiful as ever, asking if he was free for the evening so they could go to the store together.
How many times had they done that together? Thad agreed, and the two went to the store and had a good time. But the dream shifted, quickly becoming one of Thad’s most harrowing nightmares.
An Empty House
Inside the nightmare, Thad found out Kerry’s family had moved away to Chicago. Their house was empty, with towering shrubs eating away at the lawn and dead leaves all over the roof.
Thad’s heart thundered as he stood before the house, staring at its chapped paint and darkened windows. How could he let his best friend go without a fight?
Sleek with sweat, Thad came to in the wee hours of the morning. He shot straight into his bed, panting amid drenched covers.
A tightening vice seemed present around his neck, and he ate back a cry as he remembered the nightmare he’d had. Was it an epiphany presenting some hidden future to him?
A Superstitious Boy
Thad had never been a superstitious boy before. But the day’s events had done well to turn him into a believer.
Ali had so much in common with Kerry than he did. Even though Thad had always done right by her, he knew he was no match compared to her childhood friend. But there was one truth that gave him hope.
Make A Choice
Thad could fight for Kerry. Two things would happen: he would win her over, and life would be good again. But on the other hand, she would choose Ali, leaving him more distraught than he was now.
He was still thinking about what to do when his phone pinged a text. Reaching for it, he saw that it was Kerry. Blushing at how fast he opened the message after seeing it was her, Thad read it.
The text was simple enough. It began with a “Hello” and concluded with Kerry hoping Thad was feeling better. She wanted to come to see him in the afternoon.
Thad’s heart pounded as he read each text word out loud, making sure he didn’t miss anything. But Kerry followed up with another text that would ruin his day.
“Ali just transferred to our school for his senior year,” Kerry shared through her text. Thad thought that was the worst news he would receive that morning when another came, reading, “He just asked me to homecoming!”
“Homecoming,” Thad repeated, feeling a void birth within him. He’d wanted to ask Kerry out for homecoming and planned on it for a while. To surprise her, he’d even entered their names for homecoming king and queen. How could this happen?
“I am happy for you,” Thad texted, trembling fingers barely typing correctly. “I am happy for you, Kere,” He made an excuse about needing to be somewhere through the day and turned his phone off.
Thad set his phone down and sulked throughout the day. He had never been in this position before, wondering what would happen if he opened up to his best friend about his feelings and perhaps lost her or kept everything a secret and lost her.
Although Thad knew he wasn’t doing right by Kerry, he kept his phone turned off throughout the day. He asked his brothers to tell Kerry he wasn’t home when she came to see him.
The weekend ended with the two friends not seeing each other. But as Monday crept closer, Thad knew he’d have to face his fear once and for all.
A Different Monday Morning
Thad went to school as usual. But unlike many days he’d done this, he didn’t walk through the front door with Kerry by his side. Instead, he spied her on the other end of the hall laughing with Ali.
Although Thad’s stomach churned at the sight of Ali making Kerry laugh, his heart softened at the joy that exuded from her. As the days went by, with Thad spending each of them away from Kerry, a realization slowly hit him.
Prom Is Coming
The days kept counting, and prom got closer with each passing. But, when Thad saw Kerry, he realized he’d confused his emotions. What he thought was a romantic yearning was him fearing Ali was here to replace him.
Tired of staying away, he wrote Kerry a letter, explaining himself and apologizing for all he’d done. But before he knew it, homecoming was here. Thad stood by his lonesome as the announcer got ready to call out their year’s homecoming royalty. He hadn’t received a response from her.
A King With A Hurting Heart
“Homecoming King,” called out the announcer, “Thad Hemsworth!” the crowds cheered as the spotlight shone on Thad. His gut clenched as he knew what this meant.
Thad had already seen Kerry and Ali walking into the hall and remembered he hadn’t shared that he’d entered his and Kerry’s names into the contest. The announcer took a deep breath before calling out the homecoming queen, and Thad ate back a gulp of air.
All Hail The Queen
“Kerry Arivett!” the spotlight shone on Kerry, and Thad, already on the podium, saw as she shifted from utterly surprised to instantly graceful with one swift motion.
Thad’s eyes connected with her as she walked to the podium, and he noticed she’d glanced back at Ali severally. He rubbed a hand down his throat as she reached the stairs. What he did next left the hall in silence.
A New Development
Thad helped Kerry to receive her crown and then rushed off the podium. He wended through the dumbfounded crowd to Ali with his crown.
Thad looked at Ali with a smile. He knew Ali had done so much for Kerry while he’d only been there for two years of her life. He was glad such a person was in her life and knew he’d do anything to be his friend. But right now, there was only one thing he could do.
Long Live The King
Thad presented his crown, placing it on Ali’s head. He dusted his shoulders and shook his hand, turning to the crowd and presenting Ali as their homecoming king.
Thad saw Kerry wipe a tear from her gleaming eyes on the podium as everyone cheered. “Go get her, tiger,” he whispered into Ali’s ear.
Disclaimer: To protect the privacy of those depicted, some names, locations, and identifying characteristics have been changed and are products of the author's imagination. Any resemblances to actual events, places, or persons, living or dead, are entirely coincidental.